Saturday, November 11, 2017

Scrambling to Keep Warm on SACG’s Closing Day

This may not have been the coldest Veteran’s Day in history, but it was the coldest Closing Day for the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden.  It was 22 degrees when we started working this morning.    However, it was sunny and there was no wind, so it was not as bad as it could have been.  And, let’s face it, it’s easier to clean up the Garden when the plants have died back than when they are thriving.   Nonetheless, we were moving a lot to keep warm and that helped us get our work done in pretty short order.  And, of course, it being Veterans Day, we had the help of two veterans:  Bob Seed and Ken Turner.

As faithful readers know, we accomplished most of our Closing Day tasks last Saturday when Alyssa, Taylor, Carly, Sabrina, Bob, Rose and I cut back and bagged the brambles, mowed the lawn, and cleaned out some of the plots.  I worried that no one (other than Sabrina) would show up this morning because it was so cold.   I had stopped by on Thursday to rescue the lettuce and chard because I did not think that they would survive the freezing temperatures.  Amy was already there when I arrived this morning and had brought some homemade pumpkin nut bread.  Yum!  I brought hot coffee (and discovered to my chagrin that my Bailey’s Irish cream had expired 10 years ago and so I couldn’t supply that extra hazard pay for my faithful volunteers this morning). Sabrina showed up when I did and Rachel was only a few minutes behind.  Then, Bob Seed came back and brought hot chocolate.  Cathy dropped off another few dozen of her homemade chocolate chip cookies and then we got lucky when Casey and two of his fellow OSU student volunteers showed up to help.

Amy started on cutting back in the flower beds. She was joined by Bob and Rachel.  I attacked the Butterfly Bush and emptied the rain barrel.    Sabrina was tasked with cleaning and reorganizing the area around the shed and the shed itself.  She excels at this.  She pulled out all of the stakes, sorted out the rotten ones, organized everything and then put it in its place.    She then emptied the shed, swept it out and then put everything back in a very strange order, but it all fit.

After cleaning out the flower beds, Amy and Rachel  dug out and bagged the forest of chocolate mint that had taken over the center of the Garden.  They were then joined by Bob and were tasked with cleaning out the remaining food pantry plots and deciding what was still edible (and thus donatable) and what would be bagged or composted.     Our carrots were not mature enough (and the soil in the raised beds was frozen solid, so that I could not pull out those carrots).  We weren’t sure when we arrived and everything had a layer of frost on it whether anything would be edible, but most of the crops were cold hardy.  

Casey wanted to turn our compost bins (because that was our most physically demanding task du jour and could be counted on to help him generate body heat).  I worried about him being over there by himself, but when I checked on him, he had found lots of compost and had managed to turn all four bins.   His friends were assigned the three sisters plot to clean out.   I pitched in on various teams and even took a garden fork down to the bins, but no one seemed to really need me today.

Ken showed up to pick up our lawn mower because his assigned task was to clean and winterize it.  He had already been to a Veterans Day breakfast and was off to another event, so he took our mower with him to clean at home before bringing it back (emptied of gas).   Bob agreed to drop the OSU volunteers back at campus (to save them an hour-long bus trip) even though it would mean facing game-day traffic (since we have a noon kickoff).

We have two Volunteers of the Year:  Sabrina and Ken.  Ken took on some of our biggest projects and Sabrina helped out at least half of the weekends (and with a few of our group volunteer days).   This is Sabrina’s second year as a Volunteer of the Year.

Despite this being our coldest Closing Day, I think it’s one of the first when we accomplished everything on our to-do list.  And, unlike last year when we finished an hour late (i.e., around 1 p.m.), we finished on time (early actually).    Cathy stopped by a second time as we were packing up to volunteer to take all of our lawn waste bags to the curb on Monday night/Tuesday morning.  (It made me remember the time that she and I had to carry two dozen lawn waste bags to the curb in two feet of snow a few years ago).    However, it means that I do not have to return on Monday. Yipee!

Sabrina and I had lunch where I had made black bean soup and a butternut squash and roasted poblano pepper quesadillas.  We wondered what we are going to do on Saturdays for the next few months.   (I know I have a lot of house cleaning, organizing and purging to do).   We also took all of the produce to the LSS food pantry for our final weekly donation.   We were at 750 pounds for the year, a record for the SACG.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Leaving It On the Field

Finally getting a hard frost has finally made it easier to clean out the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden for the season.  It’s always heartbreaking – even impossible – to pull out a beautiful vegetable that is still green and bushy.  However, pulling out a plant with slimy or dead leaves is par for the course for this point in the gardening season.  And the hard frost means that our kale has gone from tasting bitter, to tasting sweet.  On Saturday, the SACG had seven volunteers come and help clean out the garden a week in advance of our traditional closing day on the second Saturday in November.

I picked up donuts and apple cider on Friday for the volunteers and Cathy baked a couple dozen chocolate chip cookies.  When I arrived (ten minutes late), Carly was there weeding the strawberry  patch. She had planned to visit her parents in Iowa over the three-day weekend next week, so she wanted to make up early missing our Closing Day work day next week.   Alyssa and Taylor pulled in right behind me.  They are heading to Canada for the three-day weekend.  They then spent most of the morning pruning the raspberry brambles on the outside of the fence and along the food pantry plots inside to about knee height, and then bagging all of the brambles.  This is dangerous work because of all of the thorns and the Garden looks completely different without our thorny fence rows.

James Brown may have been the busiest man in show business, but Robert Seed  -- the volunteer coordinator for Keep Columbus Beautiful -- is the busiest man in Central Ohio beautification.  He showed up again to help clean out the Garden before running off to his next engagement in Franklinton.  I gave him a few options and he chose to mow our lawn for the first time in about a month, and then he picked up a bunch of litter in the neighborhood before grabbing a few cookies and hitting the road.

Neighbor Rose wanted to join the party, so I asked her to clean out Joy’s plot and told her that she could keep any salvageable produce that she found along with some of Rachel’s lettuce. This took her most of the morning and she ultimately donated most of the produce that she found (although I think that she left some carrots in the ground when they didn’t pull easily).

While I cut back the leaning and dead cosmos flowers, harvested leeks, peppers and kale for our weekly food pantry donation, cut out weed trees, and cut back the brambles along my fence row in my plot, Sabrina arrived and basically cleaned out the rest of the area.  She cleaned out the summer neighbor bed (of spent cucumbers, peppers and cherry tomatoes), the raised beds and the African marigolds growing in the food pantry plots.  We ended up exhausting our entire supply of yard waste bags, so I hope that I am able to find some at Lowe’s later today.  One year, all of the home improvement stores ran out and I had to buy them (at twice the cost) at Target.
We always find surprises when cutting back the brambles.  This year we found two birds' nests (one of which was in my plot) and I found two praying mantis egg nests.

After they finished cutting back brambles, Allyssa and Taylor worked on cleaning out their plot.  We can keep hardy vegetables in our plots beyond Closing Day because some of us keep coming back for small harvests for several more weeks.   They had experimented with blue potatoes this year, but those suckers  -- like all potatoes  -- take a lot of space and are difficult to find -- particularly when they match the soil.  They were still  trying to find all of their potatoes and also found more sweet potatoes when they decided to thin and transplant some of their bok choy and arugula. 

All of us have been disappointed with our Fall pea crop.  It was just too warm too long for them to flourish like they usually do.  I have only harvested 4 pea pods so far this year, but they are still flowering . . . .  Rachel's the only one who had luck with a Fall lettuce crop.  It's been a long and strange trip this Fall.

One of our mysteries, though, was that someone emptied our large rain cistern.  I had planned to empty half of it yesterday and the other half next week.  But when I arrived, it was bone dry.  I hope that it has not sprung a leak.  No one would take responsibility for having drained it early.  As a result, when Alyssa transplanted some of her winter crops, she had no water with which to water them in.  Sigh.

When I say that we are “pulling plants,” we are really just cutting the stems to the ground.  We try to leave the bottom of the stem and the complete root system in tact in order to feed the soil microbes and hold the soil in place over the winter.  Unless the garden gets covered with a blanket of snow, leaving our soil exposed over the winter means that some of it will blow away during winter storms. I probably have to return sometime today to rake debris off my plot, though, to keep bugs from overwintering under dead leaves.  I thought/hoped that the hard frost had killed all of the harlequin beetles (that have killed about half of our kale and collards), but I saw some return in the afternoon.  Nothing except rain and insecticidal soap seems to kill aphids.

Next week, we still have a lot to accomplish to close the SACG for the season:

1)      Prune the remaining flowers, including the pansies and salvia and butterfly bush.  I can never decide whether to cut back the cone flowers because I like to leave their seed heads to feed the birds over the winter, but I also do not want to leave a mess for our neighbors to look at.  We will leave the pansies and mums behind.

2)      Harvest the rest of the kale, collard greens, chard, lettuce, cilantro, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, and possibly carrots and cabbage (which have not really matured yet) for our final food pantry donation for the season and cut those plants back to the ground.  (I think there’s a song in there somewhere . . . .)

3)      Empty and turn over the rain barrel behind the shed.

4)      Cut back the mint up front and dig up and bag as much as the chocolate mint that we can growing in the path and food pantry plot.

5)      Clean out the area around the shed, and reorganize the stakes, cages and trellises.

6)      Clean out and reorganize the shed.

7)      Turn the compost bins (i.e., shovel it from one bin into the other to promote decomposition and the formation of compost

8)      Take down and store the sign for the season.

9)  Clean and winterize our lawn mower (if Ken comes to help).

We are scheduled to start at 9 am, but Sabrina suggested that we start at 8.  I can't imagine starting that early (even with the time change), but now that I know that the MSU game starts at noon, I'd like to start at 8:30 if we don't receive any strong objections. . . .

Of course, we will have refreshments.  Many hands make light work.  The more, the merrier are welcome.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Long and Winding Road to Season’s End

The long and balmy summer at the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden has finally come to an end.  Like last year, we will be having a “late” frost – i.e., after mid-October.  It might come within the next week or, like last year, in November.  So, I still have fresh zinnias for vases at my house.   In the last 10 days, I have finally pulled almost all of the tomatoes, basil and beans from the food pantry and my plots.  Weather permitting, I may pull the rest of the winter (butternut) squash this weekend and harvest most of the rest of the peppers.   This is usually a sad time for me, but I’m actually looking forward to some time off to clean and organize my house and get to some home improvement projects that I never have time to finish during the growing season.

Last year, we were blessed to have help from an OSU sorority to pull out most of the food pantry tomatoes.  That was an ordeal, so this year I planted half of the tomatoes plants that we often plant and opted for a co-op plot of corn, winter squash and pole beans (i.e., the three sisters).    Sabrina cleaned out most of the co-op plot.  This year, no sorority came to my rescue, but Robert Seed from Keep Columbus Beautiful called me on Tuesday afternoon wondering where I was because he was willing to spend an hour helping me to break down the Garden and put it to bed.  I only go to the Garden on Tuesdays for emergencies, but he came back on Wednesday and helped to clean out the tomato food pantry plot and cut down all but two of the remaining corn stalks.   He then showed up again on Saturday morning (before I arrived and while I was washing my car down the street) to wreck more havoc.  I explained that we won’t be pulling out much more until after a hard frost (or our Closing Day(s), whichever comes first).    I told him about how we save seeds for the next year’s season and he started to tell me how organized the Linden area community gardens are with saving their seeds. 

To preserve the soil microbes and to keep the soil from blowing away over the winter, I strongly encourage the gardeners to cut the plants back at the ground instead of the easier action of pulling the plants out by their roots.    Because we are typically still growing food until November, we usually don’t have time to plant and establish a cover crop for the winter.   I’m also thinking about scavenging some shredded leaves from Capital University again to cover some of the plots over the winter, but I worry about those leaves protecting the beetles as well as the soil.  Our kale and collard greens were decimated this Fall by harlequin beetles.   Their damage has been so extensive that I’m not sure that we’ll have much of a final harvest when we close for the season on Saturday November 11.

On Saturday, I was there for most of the day.  I needed to clean out my own plot of two rows of tomatoes and a few eggplants that never produced much of anything (because, among other things, they were overly shaded by the tomatoes and zinnias).   Like last year, I decided to save vines which still had some good sized tomatoes on them.  One of my experiments from last year really paid off:  if you hang the vines in your garage, the tomatoes will continue to ripen.  While they do not taste quite as good as summer tomatoes, they are similar to grocery tomatoes and can be roasted.  Unlike last year, I only had one hook from which I could hang my tomatoes this year, which will impede air circulation.

In addition to spending a few hours cutting back, composting and bagging tomatoes, I had to rescue the tomato ties (to use next year), stack cages and trellises, paint the last portion of our new fence, harvest for the weekly food pantry donation, cut back three additional food pantry tomato plants (in other plots), clean out the rest of the tomatillos, harvest about 8 pounds of volunteer potatoes that came up in two plots from unharvested potatoes from last year, clean out some collards and kale plants that the beetles had killed, water some new flowers, cut back and bag some spent cosmos, empty the tall rain cistern, disconnect both rain cisterns, etc.  Sabrina was batching it this weekend because all of her men went on a cub scout camping trip in the Hocking Hills.  She watered all of the food pantry greens and peppers, kept neighbor, Rose, company, cleaned out some of her tomatoes, helped me with the rain cisterns, harvested a lot of peppers, etc.

There were lots of bees looking for food on Saturday (which was very warm).  I felt bad for them.  There were still some flowering basil, marigold, zinnias and cosmos.   In other words, there is not a lot to choose from these days.  When it gets cold, I always find bees that got stranded in a flower because they can apparently only fly when it is very warm.    Usually, I find them at the end of the season in my African marigolds, but this year, I found some in my basil.

I finally upgraded my cheap blender.  My new one is ridiculously expensive, but it makes kale smoothies that are a smooth as silk.  I finally found a reliable use for my bumper kale crop.  I often make  Tuscan kale (i.e., sautéed with anchovies, garlic and olive oil), kale chips, kale sautéed with Italian sausage and mushrooms, but there’s only so many times a month that you can force yourself to each the same recipe.

My garden experiment this year has been lemon grass.  I saw the seeds at Oakland Nursery in the spring and planted it at home and, I think, at the Garden.  It really looks like an ornamental grass and likes warmth and sun.  I think that I must have weeded it by mistake at the Garden, but I had three large clumps in my home herb garden next to my patio.  It’s a beautiful plant.  However, the bulbs did not really get big enough in one season to use in stir fries.   I found a youtube video that showed how to over winter it in northern climates to replant in the Spring (as well as how to harvest it).  On Sunday, I saved the smaller stalks to replant in the Spring and the rest I harvested to try and use  in recipes.  The grass leaves are razor sharp (and I have the paper cuts to prove it).  I am drying them to use in teas and broths.   The cut stems are already growing again, which is freaky.  I put two pots in a southern window and one pot will go in the basement (to see if it will go dormant and revive in the Spring as promised in the video). 

One of my prior experiments was saffron.  I replanted my crocus bulbs a month late this year, which I hoped would not matter in light of the weather.  However, they have only recently started to poke through the soil and I worry that they won’t bloom in time to avoid frost damage.   I had to order these by mail about five years ago and was surprised to see them now on sale at Oakland Nursery.  They look like regular crocuses, but bloom in the Fall instead of the Spring.  Then, you let the leaves be over the winter and they finally die back in the Spring (when it gets warm), when I dig them up again.   Like regular crocus bulbs, you have to plant them under chicken wire or other barrier to keep the squirrels from digging them up.    Some farmers plant them along side another crop that dies back in the early Fall, but I cannot do that because of those pesky squirrels and the need to use chicken wire.

We have set a new personal best record for food pantry donations this year.  With three weekly food pantry donations left to make in 2017, we have already exceeded last year’s record donation.    Whoo hoo!  That is, of course, largely a reflection of the fact that we had so few individual gardeners this year and, thus, lots of empty plots to use for our food pantry donations.   I’m hoping that with all of the new neighbors moving into the neighborhood and the expressions of interest that we have received so far that we will have more new gardeners next year and fewer food pantry plots.

Our next door neighbor Kimball Farms constructed a high tunnel next door and, I’ve learned, three others on three other plots that they have elsewhere on the Near East Side.  In the past week, they also topped off their raised beds with top soil.    I was speaking with Seth at the Land Bank about the SACG taking title to our lot and he tried to convince me to add a high tunnel to the SACG.  I really need my winters off dude.  Really.  I told him that Betty Weaver and I had considered adding a high tunnel over the middle section of the Garden back in 2010 or 2011, but Betty thought it would be ridiculous to trudge through knee high snow to get to the Garden.  I could not disagree.  We tried using low tunnels over the kids raised beds back in 2012 or 2013, but someone stole our tarps within a week after we installed the hoops, etc.  Those clear plastic tarps are very useful as tents and blankets for the area’s homeless population.  While I can’t say that I blame them for taking them, it killed my appetite for trying winter gardening outside my own back yard (where I occasionally still use a cold frame or low tunnel to extend the growing season for my kale).  However, last winter was so mild (and I expect this winter to be much the same) that ALL of my kale and most of my swiss chard from 2016 survived the winter and are still producing in my back yard. 

Our Closing  Day(s) will be Saturdays, November 4 and 11.  On November 4, some of us will spend
three hours between 9 and 12 cutting back and bagging the raspberry brambles.  There are also lots of volunteer raspberry bushes which we will be digging up and transplanting, so volunteers can take some home if they would like.   We will also probably cut back the remaining pepper plants (depending on the weather forecast).   From 9 until noon on  November 11, the rest of us will clean out the rest of the Garden, clean out the area around the shed where we will then re-stack and store our stakes, cages and trellises, empty the large rain cistern, conduct our final food pantry harvest for the season, (send some herbs and, if wanted, seeds home with our volunteers), etc.  Refreshments will be provided on both days.   Unlike last year, we will not have any capital improvement projects (like moving raised beds, etc.).

Feel free to join us.  Many hands make light work. 

Finally, our Free Little Library seems to be falling apart.  I hope to have time to reinforce it before the season's end.  (It was made with particle board, which is not the most durable material for an outdoor library).   A mysterious and unidentified volunteer (or volunteers) has been keeping it well stocked this Fall with books.  That is much appreciated!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Look What You Made Me Do

Whew!  We finally finished our fence project this morning.  (Ok, we still have some painting to do next week, but the fence is up and the posts are on).  And I’m finally eating dinner at close to 9 p.m.   Last week, we still had about five feet of pickets to attach and the post toppers to install.  The Capital University student volunteers left us with 40 some painted pickets and we now have 22 painted pickets leftover.  (We also have 10 unpainted pickets to return). I figured that I could finish it this morning, but Ken insisted on doing ALL of the work himself.   All he would let me do is carry extra pickets back to the shed.   He even insisted on using his own liquid nails, instead of the stuff I bought this week.

Last year, a Bexley philanthropist decided to donate her garden trellis to an area community garden.   Cathy helped me to pick it up from the church formerly known as the East Broad Baptist Church (where it had been temporarily stored).   Then, a volunteer group installed the trellis on an extremely hot day in early July.  It looked out of place with our wire fence.  So, when the City announced that area Land Bank community gardens would get $200 vouchers at Lowe’s this Spring, I suggested that we install a fence to go with our new trellis.  Problem is, it costs a lot more than $200 to install a fence (even if we did it ourselves).  Doug, who manages the Silver Drive Lowe’s Home Improvement Store, even gave a substantial discount on the additional materials that we had to buy (including the paint needed to ensure that the paint matched the trellis).   Still, the SACG had to dig into its extremely limited savings (and the tight pockets of several Board members) to purchase all of the materials.   Our only real revenue are the $10/plot fees (and we only had 8 gardeners this year).

The City wanted us to install the fence sooner than later, but we didn’t get a large volunteer group until the end of August (when the OSU Pay-It-Forward volunteers supervised by Ken) helped get most of the stringers up and about 1/3 of the pickets painted and attached.  Then, last week the Capital student volunteers got most of the rest of the fence completed.  Ken completed it this morning.

So, if you want to help subsidize our future efforts to improve the SACG and our neighborhood,
remember us during The Big Give (through the Columbus Foundation), designate us as your charity of choice at Krogers (so that a portion of every purchase you make with your Kroger card will go to the SACG) or designate us as your charity of choice through Smile.Amazon.Com.  We would particularly like to expand our fruit orchard.

I was surprisingly the first to arrive at the SACG this morning.  Sabrina had told me that she would get there at 8 a.m. and Ken said he would get their at 9.  I beat them both.   A gentleman stopped by and tried to convince me to hire him to build a greenhouse for the SACG.  No thanks.  The federal government (through Mid-Ohio Food Bank) bought almost all of the area community gardens a hoop house, but I declined because I want my winters off.    I appreciated his initiative, though.  He liked our free little library, took a copy of The Kite Runner and said he would bring more books back.  Then, he wanted tomatoes from our neighbor plot, but said he couldn’t find any.  That blew my mind because I had been a little frustrated this year that no one seemed to be taking food from our neighbor beds (since the lettuce and onions in the Spring).  However, he was correct.  They had been harvested, so I grabbed a bunch from our food pantry plots and walked them out to him.

Later, some young men walked by and I tried to recruit them to help me finish the fence.  They had “somewhere” to go.  Ok.  Maybe later.

When I got home last week, I heard from one of our OSU student volunteers.  Casey wanted to come back and bring some friends.  Well, his friends wanted to sleep in this morning, but he spent an hour on a COTA bus to return to the SACG this morning.  He helped Sabrina break down the corn stalks.  Then, I had him clean up the food pantry plots (by composting the leaves we had pulled off in past weeks because of insect damage), prune out the bush green beans (which were well watered by our volunteers the prior week and had lots of large beans) and harvest the beans for our weekly food pantry harvest.  Then, sent him hunting for green beans in the corn plot (where we had them growing up the corn stalks).   Then, he mowed our lawn (since Taylor didn’t show up to do his chore or harvest his hundreds of ripe cherry tomatoes).

While I was harvesting for our weekly food pantry harvest, some folks stopped by to harvest everything they could grab from the neighbor beds.  It was funny to listen to them.   We then chatted a bit.  They thought that we were part of Pastor Brown’s ministry.  Nope.  We talked about the hoop house that Kimball Farms just put up (via MOFB).   Apparently, that is just one of four that he has put up.  They did a really good job of installing it.  Even Ken was impressed.  I told them about how to grow cherry tomatoes in hoop houses (which I learned from my cousin’s son, an AG major at Wilmington College).
Amy came and helped with the food pantry harvest.  She also drove Casey back to OSU so that he
wouldn’t have to spend the rest of his day waiting for COTA and then getting back to campus.  Casey says that he’s coming back next week, but I almost feel obliged to tell him about community gardens that are closer to campus so that he doesn’t have to spend 2+ hours every Saturday on COTA just to volunteer at the SACG.

Without any rain this month, it takes a long time to water the Garden.  Our big tank is running dry and I’m afraid to use our tall tank because it is under a black walnut tree that is dropping a lot of bombs this time of the year.   I’ve started looking into buying a hard hat.  No joke.   The bigger issue is that the lack of rain has let the bugs go wild on our greens.  If it’s not aphids, it’s the harlequin beetles that are eating our cabbage, kale and collards.  Sigh.    I’m going to have to invest in some insecticidal soap to deal with this next week.  Luckily, a farm had donated a ton of greens to the food pantry before I got there, so they didn’t need our holey greens this.  (I suggested that they pitch two of the bags). 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Capital Crusaders Slay Fence During Annual Day of Service

Where would the community garden movement be without college students?  Yesterday was Capital University’s Crusader Day of Service and they came to the Stoddart Avenue Community Garden to slay dragons.   We made huuugggee progress on our new fence.  They also watered, and mowed and weeded and harvested 60 pounds of fresh produce, and picked up a little litter in the two block area around the SACG.

On Friday, Ken – our fence guru and jack of all trades -- emailed me that he could not come.  Wah.   How were we going to complete the fence without Ken?  I thought about going over Friday to get a jump on the project, but then remembered that we needed to paint the pickets before attaching them.  I packed up my car and made some cookies to feed the volunteers. I also emailed Capital on Friday encouraging them to send us more students if they had them.  
They responded that the SACG would be getting only six for the morning.  When I arrived on Saturday, Sabrina and Amy were already there and I set up the refreshment station and went to borrow Cathy’s drill in case mine died.  The kids arrived on time (which is always refreshing) and I gave them a brief history and tour.    There were more than double the amount of students promised.  That was very, very exciting.   I teased them about their t-shirts quoting JFK instead of Martin Luther (particularly since this is the 500th year of his kick-starting the Reformation).

One volunteer was assigned to Sabrina to water the entire Garden.  In three hours, they watered the food pantry plots, the neighbor plots, the strawberry patch, the fruit orchard, the blue berry bushes, some flowers and the flower beds across the street.  Our only fellow mowed our lot and the Block Watch lot next door (both of which were pretty shaggy).   I asked another student to trade off so that she could mow the block watch lot across the street.    Two students wanted to pick up litter.  In three hours they had filled one bag.  (There were lots of other Capital students picking up litter along Main Street . . . . ).  Amy led a group of students in weeding.

I assigned the rest to painting our pickets and post toppers.   Unlike last month, I put them in the shade on the sidewalk (and out of the way of our mower).  We spread out a tarp and went to Urban Connections to pick up our supplies.  Ken wanted me to buy them roller brushes, but I would never spend our few dollars on something that we would only use one day.  I grabbed two students to help me attach the final two stringers to the fence.  Luckily, they had already been painted by the OSU students.  However, Ken had not yet cut them down and I had not thought to bring a saw.  Curses!  I had to rush home and cut them down with my circular saw (and pick up my level) and rush back.  We had measured the new length based on the existing stringers.   However, it turned out that, despite mine and Taylor’s best efforts, the posts were not truly vertical.  The top of the posts were closer together than the bottoms.  So, even though I had been conservative with my cutting (and had brought along a hand saw in case I did not cut enough off), the long stringer was now three inches too short.  Aiiyaiiiyaiyaiyai.    Everyone is looking at me, so I had to think fast and decided to screw a piece back on and then screw that piece to the post.  It worked.  Whew!  Crises averted.

We also had to cut back a rose bush and some flowers to attach the springers.  Then, it was time to start attaching pickets, one at a time.  Once the mowing was finished, I asked her to start bagging the corn stalks which Sabrina had trimmed out that morning.  Two students were assigned to pick our beans (because they take a long time).  Then, I assigned another pair to pick our tomatoes and another student to pick peppers.  Then, I assigned three of this crew to picking kale and collards (and showed them which misshapened leaves had aphid issues).  Once that was finished, Sabrina lead three of them in cleaning out the pole bean row because the crop seemed to be finished for the year. 

There was also a group of Capital students volunteering next door at Kimball Farms. Truth is, it turns out that our extra kids were supposed to be next door.  Oops.  However, Pastor Brown did not arrange for any water or goodies for his volunteers (who were clearing out all of the raised garden beds) and so they came to the SACG to drink our ice water (to the point that we ran out).   He also did not arrange for any yard waste bags and so the kids had been instructed to dump the vines and stalks, etc. into area dumpsters.  Eee gads.  This would NOT endear us to our neighbors, so I intervened and provided yard waste bags (that had previously been donated by Keep Columbus Beautiful) and told them to stack them near our compost bins (so that I could carry them out to the curb in 10 days).

Although our morning started off quite nicely, it began to get hot around 11:30 and I could hear the kids discussing their lunch plans.  (No one seemingly wanted my cookies.  Their loss).   They were slowing down from our fast pace earlier in the morning.  Although we were about five feet short of completing the fence, we started to put away our supplies and pose for some group photos (including of the volunteers from Phi Sigma Sigma).

We did not have any adventures with bees or snakes.  But, when I grabbed a tarp to surround the rose bush while we attached pickets behind it, the many spiders living in the tarp got a lot of attention and camera time. 

Sabrina and I tidied up after they left and I delivered our food pantry donation.  Then, it was back to the Garden to water my own plot.  I’ve been on vacation and hadn’t had a chance to water my plot since our heat wave started 10 days ago.  I also went to purchase some industrial strength exterior glue to attach our post toppers.

Neighbors Barb and Frank stopped by to admire the progress on our fence, ask about the status of our Free Little Pantry and express appreciation for our mowing and watering the  Block Watch lots.  As part of the City's support of land bank lots, the Block Watch used its allocation to purchase fertilizer for our fruit orchard.   I explained that we had only six volunteers so far to support the Free Little Pantry, but showed them where it would be placed if we move forward.

Before I left for vacation, I found a tomato horn worm on my tomato plants.  I hadn’t noticed any damage (which is odd considering how large it was).  It had already been infested with parasitic wasps (which lay eggs on these worms, which will then be eaten by the nymphs when they hatch).  It wasn’t moving much, so I have a feeling it was about to die.  I dumped it in the trash.

Our flowers are looking swell.  Again, I have let our cosmos take over our paths.  They do not get this big at my house, but they become the size of shrubs at the SACG.   We cut them back (and save seeds for next year) when they die back.

One of the OSU students who volunteered last month emailed me later in the afternoon about whether he could bring a group to volunteer on Saturday mornings.   I could certain use help cleaning up the Garden as we wind down for the year.  We do not close until the second Saturday in November, so there will be a lot of work to do between now and then.

I also took photos of the progress with our fence and emailed them to Ken.

Our fence looks swell.  Ken has volunteered to finish it off.  We might have some volunteers to help.  Or, I'll attach the toppers tonight a few pickets every week until it has been completed.